Trip Pictures

Justin, me, and Paul

Paul and Justin

Island Lake

Island Lake

Beartooths

Beartooths

Beartooths

Beartooths

Beartooths

Rock hopping

Becker Lake

Becker Lake

Justin @ Becker Lake

Camp @ Becker Lake

Albino Lake

Becker Lake

Becker Lake

Justin and Paul

Beartooths

Albino Lake

Beartooths

Albino Lake

Albino Lake

Albino Lake

Jasper Lake

Jasper Lake

Justin and Paul @

Jasper Lake

Paul @ Jasper Lake

Jasper Lake

Justin @ Jasper Lake

Golden Lake

Golden Lake

Golden Lake

Golden Lake

Snow

Justin and Paul on snow

Golden Lake

Golden Lake

Golden Lake

Paul on snow field

Justin on snow field

Justin on snow field

Snow field @ Golden

Lake

Paul in the snow

Beartooths

Paul

Justin negotiating a

HUGE boulder field

Boulders

Boulders

Boulders

Boulders

Beartooths

Beartooths

Beartooths

Beartooths

Beartooths

Beartooths

Abandoned Lake

Abandoned Lake

Tarn

Tarn

Lonesome Lake

Beartooths

Beartooths

Beartooths

Tarn

Beartooths

Beartooths

Beartooths

Beartooths

Beartooths

Beartooths

Beartooths

Beartooths

Justin and Paul

Justin and Paul

Moose

One of the best lunch

views in the world

Beartooths

Beartooths

Beartooths

Beartooths

Beartooths

Beartooths

Beartooths

Granite Lake

The river crossing that

stopped us

Specimen Ridge

Fox

Hayden Valley

Hayden Valley

Bison

Bison

Bison

Pool

Squaretop Mountain

Squaretop Mountain

Squaretop Mountain

Big Sandy

Black bear

Beartooths

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The week of 10 Jul 10, Justin and Paul flew out from back home so we could do a week-long

backpacking trip on the Beartooth Plateau of the Absaroka-Beartooth Wilderness in Wyoming

and Montana.  Justin and Paul arrived in Salt Lake on Saturday the 10th, and we quickly hit

the road to make the drive up to Cooke City, MT.  We spent the night at the Super 8, and then

got up on Sunday morning and met a car shuttle driver at the Kersey Lake Trailhead after

having breakfast at Bearclaw Bob's.  The plan was to leave my truck at Kersey Lake, and then

have the shuttle drive us to Island Lake.  We would then hike across the plateau back to the

truck.  We were still debating the plan when the shuttle driver got there.  I was a little worried

that we were too early in the year, and there would be too much snow up high.  Our highest

point on the planned route was about 11,400 feet, but we were mostly going to be around

10,500.  I had been up to nearly 11,000 feet on the Beartooth Highway the week before,

though, and the snow didn't look all that bad.  I had decided months earlier to make this trip in

mid-July, because the winter snow had been considerably less than normal, and I was worried

that forest fires would be a problem later in the summer.  Unfortunately, spring never sprung.

Spring had been much cooler than usual, and even though the winter snow pack was fairly

low, what was on the ground had not had a chance to melt.  The shuttle driver, however, felt

like the snow wouldn't be much of a problem.  He said that the snow would make boulder fields

easier, and if the snow got too deep, we could always bail out to the lower elevation trail and

make our way back to the car that way.  So we decided to stick with the plan and shuttle up to

Island Lake.

We hit the trail late Sunday morning and immediately had to make a river crossing of the creek

coming out of Island Lake.  From there, we just took the trail up to where we planned to leave

the trail to head to Becker Lake.  When we got to where we were going to leave the trail,

though, there was a small trail heading in the direction of Becker Lake...so, I figured there had

been enough traffic to develop an unofficial trail.  The weather was starting to drizzle, and the

temperature had fallen.  We had another creek crossing south of Becker Lake, then we hiked

up and around Becker.  The weather was looking questionable, so we decided to stay below

treeline for the night and to cut the day short.  We set up camp at the very north end of Becker

just below treeline.  We then set out to dayhike up to Albino Lake to see what the snow looked

like.  On the way, just as we crossed the state line into Montana, a fly fisherman pretty much

walked out of the brush and welcomed us to Montana.  We talked to him for a few minutes and

found out that he had just accepted a job teaching at the University of Tennessee in

Knoxville...talk about a small world.  His kids would be going to the same school as Paul's kid,

and he was on terminal leave from the Air Force.  It was a weird encounter in the middle of the

wilderness of Montana.  We continued up to Albino, where there was a snow, but it wasn't too

bad.  We then headed back to camp for he night.

We got up on Monday morning and headed back up to Albino Lake.  We again talked to our

new Knoxville friend at Albino, and then we headed around the west side of Albino.  It didn't

look like there was a good way around the lake down low, so we headed up a little above the

lake.  This ran us into more snow, which significantly slowed us down.  The snow was patchy,

but it was 100 yard wide patches.  It was firm in the middle of the patches, but it was soft and

3-5 feet deep on the edges.  We made it to the saddle between Albino and Jasper around

noon, and we stopped for lunch.  The view was great, and the wind was howling.  The view

down into Jasper Lake was really nice, but the snow in the basin looked considerably worse.

We were starting to get worried that we wouldn't have enough time to make it the 30 miles

back to the car in the three more days we had to spend out there.  After talking about it, we

decided to bail out down to the trail near the Beartooth Lake trail intersection, and to take this

trail back to the car.  This would be at a lower elevation, below tree line, so snow would not be

a problem, and it would give us a chance to hike back to the car.  It would be a shorter route,

so we figured we could make it back to the car by late Wednesday night, instead of coming out

on Friday morning on the original route.

So we headed out of Jasper Lake by heading toward Golden Lake.  At Golden Lake, we had

some good, epic adventures.  First, we had some big snowfields, including one field that was

about 300 yards long, and ran steeply down into Golden Lake.  We got across that snowfield

without much problem, then we hit a massive boulder field in the canyon running out of

Golden.  The boulder field was a huge obstacle that took us over an hour to negotiate.  We

first tried going through the boulders, but they were the size of my truck, and we continually

found ourselves cliffed-up.  We ended up backtracking to negotiate the canyon at the water

level.  This involved lots of climbing around boulders, traversing snowfields, and hopping

around water, but we eventually made it out.  We then climbed up to the plateau west of

Lonesome Lake, and hiked most of the way back to the trail.  We stopped about a mile before

the trail, and set up camp.

We got up on Tuesday and hit the trail near T Lake.  We headed south through the meadows

towards Clay Butte, and then cut north up towards Granite Lake, which involved lots of steep

descending.  We made our way to Granite Lake, and then ran into a massive problem at Lake

Creek.  On the west end of Granite Lake, there was a river crossing that didn't look like much

on the map.  When we got there, though, the water was freezing, it was at least chest deep,

and it was rushing fast.  The crossing was about 30 yards across, and we could not figure out

a way to safely cross it with all of our gear.  We agonized over it, and finally decided the safest

thing to do would be to bail out to another trailhead and try to hitchhike our way back to the

car.

This decision sucked for lots of reasons.  First off, we didn't want to bail out on the trip.

Second, we didn't want to backtrack up the long, steep descents we had just done.  And third,

it just flat out ticked us off!

But we really couldn't think of another solution.  So I found a trail on the east side of Granite

that would lead us back to the road, and we wouldn't have to make all those ascents.  When

we got back to the east side of the lake, though, the trail wasn't there.  We looked around for

awhile, but simply couldn't find it.  So we started back up the ridge hoping it was a little ways

up.  It wasn't.  We eventually climbed back up onto the plateau, arriving back at the Clay Butte

intersection six hours after we had arrived there at lunch earlier in the day.  We decided to

head out to the Clay Butte trailhead to try to find a way back.  The Clay Butte trailhead is pretty

remote, but just ten minutes after we arrived, a couple drove by in a pickup truck.  They were

super nice, and offered to drive us back to the Kersey Lake trailhead.  We got to the trailhead

about 8 pm, and then got a hotel room in Cooke City for the night.

On Wednesday we hiked on the Specimen Ridge Trail and the Mary Mountain Trail in

Yellowstone.  We camped outside of West Yellowstone on Wednesday night.  On Thursday

Justin and Paul hiked out to Imperial Geyser, and I hiked the west side of the Mary Mountain

Trail.  Afterwards, we headed down to the Tetons and just drove around the Tetons some.  We

then drove down to the Winds and camped on the road to Green River Lakes.  On Friday we

got up to overnight at Green River Lakes, but on the drive out there, we saw signs saying the

area was closed because of bear activity.  They were allowing backcountry camping as long as

you were at least five miles from the trailhead, but we weren't sure we felt like dealing with

that.  We decided to drive on out there, though, as decide when we got there.  On the way, a

black bear ran across the road in front of us, which was the first bear I have ever seen outside

of a National Park.  Once we got to the trailhead, we were the only ones there, and the

mosquitos were vicious.  We walked around for a bit, but decided that the bears were one

thing, but the bears AND mosquitos were just too much.  So headed back to Pinedale, and

then we drove out to the Big Sandy Trailhead, because I just wanted to check out the

trailhead.  We hiked a little along the trail, and then we just headed back to Salt Lake.

Overall, this was a great trip.  It was a little disappointing that we didn't get to traverse the

Beartooth Plateau.  I'm not sure if we chickened out too early, or not.  I don't know that we

would have had enough time to do the traverse as originally planned, but I think we could have

stayed out longer and then hitched hiked out a couple of days later.  Frankly, it never even

occurred to me at the time that we didn't have to leave as early as we did.  I think that once we

couldn't make the river crossing, we just got focused on getting back to the car.  In hindsight, I

wish we had left the car at Island Lake instead of Kersey Lake.  But we made the decision

based on all the information we had at the time, and the trip seemed doable.  It's also possible

that we could have made the entire traverse in the time we had.  We were just moving so

slowly...sometimes little more than a mile an hour because of the snow...that it would have

been hard to finish the trip if we had run into more snow.  I certainly think we couldn't have

finished the whole trip, but I feel like we didn't test the snow as much as we could have.  But it

was still a great trip...and now I still get to go back to hike more of the plateau!